Early morning, still dark outside when the wake up call came from my dad. I was curled up in a twin bed in my childhood room, a warm Labrador curled up beside me.
Time to get up, brush my teeth, shower, get my things together, and head to the airport.
I was traveling again.
The significance of the day evaded me until we were on the road.
“It must be so expensive to do this,” my dad said. We were driving by houses that were dark on the inside and bright with strings of Christmas lights on the outside.
“It is probably too late anyway.”
“Probably, but I prefer not to think about it that way because I would not be able to get out of bed in the morning. I just to as much as I can to make the world a better place in my own way.”
We talked about the high cost of solar panels, the flagrant waste of our culture, and the end of the world. Uplifting dialogue on a dark, holiday morning.
“Can we talk about something less depressing?” I asked. The car rounded the corner of the onramp and joined others on a darkened highway.
We talked about life, family, and my odd life yet serendipitous choice to move to Lowell. My dog, who has become the beloved third member of my parents’ household, slept soundly in the back seat.
“It is truly amazing how much you have accomplished in such a short time,” my dad said. These days, he and my mom are the greatest cheerleaders in my life. I smiled in the dark. It wasn’t always this way. I have made some odd choices over the years.
At the airport, the security staff was friendly. Fellow travelers and flight attendants donned antlers. When I looked in the mirror in the Women’s room, I realized with dismay that I was wearing Christmas colors as well—dark green corduroy, green hooded sweatshirt, and red down vest. Maybe, despite my heritage and propensity for melancholy, classical music by eastern European composers who led difficult lives, I had fallen victim to some strange form of Christmas spirit.
I have always felt like I was missing something this time of year. Christmas just does not mean anything to me. I don’t understand why someone would cut down a living, breathing tree just to put it in the living room house for a few days. Yes, it smells glorious, but it seems cruel and unusual and wasteful, to say nothing of how the tree feels about it.
There are moments when my heart is warmed by this time of year. Despite the wasted electricity, I love Christmas lights. And when a group of young children came into the visitor center and sang a medley of Christmas songs to my coworker and me, my heart was full.
But running around and spending hours shopping for presents just because it is a holiday seems strange to me. I give holiday gifts to very few people. Throughout the year, I try to give the less tangible kind of offering—a smile and a hello to passersby, love and support to friends and family.
I am not entirely a Grinch.
I have a deep love for the beings in my life and the places I have called home.
I love eating Chinese food on Christmas Eve. The night before, I had barely walked through the door when my mom offered me hot and sour soup.
There is comfort in tradition, even if it means I inherit a scarf and/or cowl every time I see my parents so my knitted winter wear collection has grown to an unwieldy mass.
I will not be cold or hungry any time soon, and I am loved.
2 thoughts on “So this is xmas”
When my children were little, Marieke, Stephen set off fireworks in our front yard on July 4th. I was standing, with friends, behind the cedar pole fence that lines the driveway, and had baby Annie propped on that fence to one side of me. A firework misfired and hit me on the left side of my chest, almost at my shoulder blade. Annie was fortunately on the other side of me. The firework burned a hole through my fleece jacket and punched me a little but didn’t hurt me in any real way. But my mind was made up; no more fireworks on July 4th. After all, this wasn’t my holiday (coming from England).
The holiday that we did celebrate in England with fireworks was Guy Fawkes Day, November 5th. I remember my parents making a bonfire out of garden debris and we ate baked potatoes and sausages while watching the flames as my dad set off the fireworks that he’d picked up for the occasion. I remember this as one of the better moments we shared as a family. And I still remember it.
A couple of years after my proclamation of no more July 4th fireworks, I climbed into bed after dark and listened to the tiny explosions all around our house. I knew my 7-year old son was probably not asleep in the next room and I wondered to myself how he would ever build memories if I didn’t let him celebrate the holidays in his country? So I relented. After all, I didn’t really get hurt by that firework.
That’s what I think Christmas has come to be. Tradition. As you say. Maybe it’s not justified, nor good for the environment, nor in keeping with the original spirit of the season – but it does build memories. And hopefully good ones.
Thank you so much for your comment and story. I am reminded of a time when I was in college and studying the effects of human choices on the environment. I was struggling with how to make life choices (such as whether or not have children) that would certainly have a deleterious effect on the earth. When I spoke to my father about it, he told me that while it was important to keep the earth in mind, it was equally important not to be a martyr to a cause and miss out on some of life’s most beautiful experiences.